SAN DIEGO (ABC4 Sports) – With Kawhi Leonard watching from one baseline, Matt Mitchell scored 24 of his season-high 28 points in the second half — including three straight 3-pointers — to help rally No. 4 San Diego State to an 80-68 victory against Utah State on Saturday night and remain the nation’s only undefeated team with a record of 23-0.
The Aggies had won three straight game, but fell to 17-7 on the season, 6-5 in the Mountain West Conference.
San Diego State retired Leonard’s jersey at halftime and looked to be in trouble, trailing 39-31 after going cold for seven minutes and allowing the Aggies to go on a 14-0 run.
Sam Merrill had 16 points to lead the Aggies, a career-high-tying 12 assists and five rebounds for Utah State, Brock Miller added 15 points, while Justin Bean chipped in 13 points and five rebounds.
Merrill knocked down a couple of free throws early in the second half to give the Aggies their largest lead of the night at 41-31. Following the freebies, the Aztecs proceeded to go on a 23-8 run to surge in front, 54-49, with 12:41 to go.
A 5-0 run by Merrill pulled Utah State even at 54-all, but SDSU scored the next seven points and never looked back. The Aggies got to within three on one occasion, but the Aztecs pulled away and led by as many as 14 late in the game.
Matt Mitchell led all scorers on the night with 28 points for the Aztecs (23-0, 12-0 MW), who remained the only unbeaten team in all of college basketball. Three other SDSU players scored in double figures as Malachi Flynn and KJ Feagin had 15 points apiece, while Yanni Watzell finished with a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Flynn scored 10 straight points for the Aztecs during a three-minute stretch of the first half to help the hosts open a 20-12 lead.
Utah State countered with a half-ending 27-11 spurt, capped by a Merrill 3-pointer right before the buzzer, to take a 39-31 lead into the break. The Aggies held the Aztecs scoreless for close to seven minutes during the first 20 minutes of play, and scoreless from the field over the final 2:52.
The Aztecs shot 48.1 percent from the field (25-of-52) on the night, including a respectable 43.8 percent from beyond the arc (14-of-32). In the second half alone, San Diego State was 9-for-19 from downtown for a 47.4 percent clip, which helped the hosts overcome the double-digit deficit.
The Aggies next host UNLV Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m.